What was the significance of Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The greatest significance of Upton Sinclair's grim The Jungle is that its publication aroused much public sentiment, which then led to federal legislation such as the Pure Food and Drug Act and improvements in working conditions for meat packers and other factory workers.

As a muckraker Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle as an exposé of the horrible conditions of the meat-packing industry. Sinclair himself stated his purpose as that of informing Americans of "the inferno of exploitation" as he characterized American factories in the early 1900's. Specifically, Sinclair's focus is on the exploitation of immigrants in Chicago as they worked long hours, wading in steaming hot blood in sweltering days in the summer, and freezing conditions in the winter. Eventually, after coming to America in search of a hopeful new life, these immigrants find these hopes reduced to numbing poverty, degradation, and despair.

As Sinclair was himself a Socialist, in The Jungle he promotes his ideology that would end "wage slavery" and provide safety for those in dangerous trades. Many of these ideas helped to give rise to labor unions.

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